It’s a beautiful sunny morning in April and we’re in a “weather window” on Mayne Island, one of the smallest of the B.C. Gulf Islands. It rained yesterday, the forecast is more rain for tomorrow, but today is perfect for kayaking. Standing on Mayne Island’s pebbled beach, Jen McGuinness of B.C.-based Ecosummer Expeditions and I are attired in our rubber kayaking skirts waiting for “slack tide” — the calm between ebb and flow — to launch.

Kayaking is becoming a popular activity for the wellness-minded traveller because it can offer a great fitness workout. Depending on a person’s weight, level of fitness and how hard he or she works to propel the kayak through the water, the activity can burn 250 to 350 calories per hour. It’s good for shoulders, upper arms, forearms and, as one’s technique improves, the abdomen and lower back muscles also get a workout.

Moreover, an indoor gym is no substitute for working out in the crisp sea air, which helps clear the mind and refresh the senses.

As slack tide arrives, Jen and I push the double kayak into ankle-deep water, comfortably seat ourselves into our individual cockpits and snap ourselves in so that the water “skirts” protect us from dripping paddles and wayward waves.

Escorted by the plaintive cry of seagulls, we follow the rocky shore line of Mayne Island heading toward Galiano Island, a distance of about 4 kilometres.

With low tide, more of the rocky coast is exposed, so it’s the perfect opportunity to gaze upon purple star fish clinging to the rocks. There is also lots of seaweed — including a bioluminescent kind that is a startling electric blue and glows below the water’s surface.

Jen, a native of B.C., launched her kayaking career eight years ago and since then has taken many kayaking “newbies” out to meet the waves. She says women tend to learn more quickly than men because they listen and ask questions, and follow the technique instead of just muscling through the stroke.

There’s lots of wildlife out here today: Bald eagles, great blue herons and all sorts of seabirds.

We stop to watch sea lions, their smooth shiny little heads bobbing just beyond the paddle’s reach, spot a rare rhinoceros auklet with a tiny horn on its beak and, as we glide into shore, gaze upon cormorants standing on high pylons drying their water-logged wings in the wind.

I learn there’s a family of 80 to 90 orcas that resides in these waters.

No worries, Jen tells me when she sees the cloud of concern cross my face — “they are fish eating.” As we near dockside at the low-key residential community of Galiano Bay, a river otter is coming straight for us but dips underwater and disappears before I can reach into the dry bag for my camera. After a healthy and re-energizing lunch at Woodstone Country Inn, it’s back into the kayak for the paddle back.

As the late afternoon currents stir up nutrients from the seabed, swarming schools of fish attract terns and sabine gulls, who feast in a frenzy until a ferry steams by, giving rise to a thick cloud of screeching seabirds. The kayak rocks like a cradle in the ferry’s wake.

My thoughts drift like the clouds overhead, and I muse about the prospect of a hot whirlpool bath to ease my sore muscles, a gourmet dinner and a comfortable bed at Oceanwood Country Inn (one of several local inns that are part of Ecosummer Expeditions’ multi-day kayaking experiences).

I quickly steer my mind back to the task at hand. My paddle and I are in the moment. Totally Zen.

Anne Dimon is a spa and wellness travel writer and founder/editor of

More west coast calm


It’s the best of both worlds:
Outdoor green spaces and vibrant big cities. Sunset magazine has
recommendations in its April issue for 10 places to enjoy springtime in
the West without leaving civilization:

>> The jewel of
Vancouver is Stanley Park, where you will find woods, gardens,
waterfront and cricket being played in the park’s Brockton Oval.

>> In San Diego, there’s Balboa Park, with its Botanical Building and Lily Pond, plus museums and gardens.

>> In Sacramento, William Land Park offers green space, big trees, the Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town.

In Seattle, Carkeek Park has 10 kilometres of walking trails, as well
as views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Golden Gate Park is a must-see in San Francisco, home to a bison herd,
the Conservatory of Flowers and a Japanese tea house.

In Phoenix, South Mountain Park/Preserve offers more than 6,000
hectares and a program called “Silent Sundays,” where one Sunday a
month, the park’s main Central Avenue-access roadways are closed to
motorized vehicles.

>> Denver’s Central Park at Stapleton
features 30 hectares of woods, flowers, a playground — and a view of
the city skyline.

>> Forest Park is one of Portland’s outdoor gems, with 2,000 hectares of woods, trails and scenic views of the mountains.

Albuquerque Biological Park includes an aquarium, the Rio Grande
Botanic Garden, a zoo and Tingley Beach, where you can fish or rent
pedal boats or bikes.

>> Sunset magazine says Los
Angeles’ “wildest oasis” is Griffith Park. The park’s trails are still
recovering from a fire last year, but the park is also home to the
Griffith Observatory. The magazine recommends the park’s Trails Cafe as
a “rustic yet four-star concession.” The Associated Press